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Just as Canada made a sweeping decision to fully legalize marijuana, former Mexican President Vicente Fox made headlines of his own after joining the board of “High Times”, a publication that has carried the crusade for cannabis legalization since its inception. In an interview with the Associated Press, Fox argues in favor of extending legalization not just to marijuana but to all so-called street drugs. Fox cites as a reason for his position the brutality associated with the illegal drug trades. Government cannot successfully regulate people’s behavior, he argues, and so individuals ought to be free to do what they wish without fear of criminal repercussion.

Fox’s support of drug legalization is no longer the minority opinion it once was among national leaders. In the U.S., eight states — Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California, Colorado, Maine and Vermont — have legalized recreational marijuana. Lawmakers are increasingly supportive of marijuana legalization not just as a means to relieve prison overcrowding but as another source of jobs, tax and investment revenue. When it comes to an across-the-board legalization at the federal level, however, a wait-and-see approach ought to be embraced. Why? Because early evidence in the wake of successful State-based decriminalization initiatives reveal problems policymakers have yet to resolve.

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Violence is inevitably senseless, as it was again on Wednesday when a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, went on a shooting spree that took 17 lives and injured dozens.

Senseless though it is, scarcely a month passes without news of yet another mass shooting — defined as four or more gunshot victims in a single incident. The question: How do we prevent gun violence? The obvious answer: Restrict access to guns. Indeed, there is truth to the argument that the ease with which guns can be obtained in the United States contributes to the ease with which they are available for use in crime.

While gun-control measures are often touted as a solution, such measures are far from foolproof. Take the case of Devin Patrick Kelley, who despite a discharge from active-duty military service in the wake of domestic violence charges, managed to pass a background check that allowed him to lawfully purchase the firearms he used in the Texas church shootings in 2017. On the flip side, some — the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, among them — have no criminal record by which to prevent the legal purchase of firearms. Others are not mentally fit to own firearms and yet manage to pass background checks — as describes Jared Lee Loughner who, in spite of mental health problems that resulted in suspension from a community college, legally purchased the weapon with which he shot Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona politician. Restricting access to firearms through more stringent gun-control measures also falls short when the weapons used in a shooting are unlawfully obtained.

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Some years after the G. W. Bush administration’s entry into the Iraq war, American news outlets admitted to dropping the ball. Mainstream media acknowledged they did too little to question the purported evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, whereas challenges to the Bush administration’s assertion that Iraq and the 9/11 tragedy were linked aired only belatedly. Over a decade later, the U.S. media has again dropped the ball. This time, though, the actors are different: Ukraine vs. Russia.

To hear mainstream U.S. media tell it, one could be forgiven for the belief that any and all claims of a Neo Nazi presence in Ukraine are propagandist fragments of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s imagination. The tragic shoot-down of Malaysian flight MH 17 — on the anniversary of World War I — has only added to the pressure that the West intervene. Still, media fails to recognize its role in perpetuating conflict.

Shortly before the U.S. began trotting out the interim Ukrainian prime minister following the overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected president earlier this year, The Guardian published profiles of Ukrainian parliament members. Putin, it turns out, was not lying. Historically, elements within the region sympathized with fascist Germany and some fought on Hitler’s side during World War II, prompting animosities that exist to this day.

Why does this matter? Because failure to appreciate our present — and to grasp our past — may doom us to repeat history.

In an apparent effort to turn down the heat, journalist and Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication dean, DeWayne Wickham, argues in a March USA Today piece that U.S. hegemony in the creation of Panama and Russia’s hegemony with respect to Ukraine are not terribly different.

Judging from the response the piece drew, Wickham’s point was lost on many readers. Accusations mounted: Wickham had attempted to excuse Putin’s audacity in Crimea. Wickham had cited an passé example, irrelevant because the creation of Panama took place over 100 years ago.

It’s all too easy to dismiss the events of the past — or, conversely, latch onto the tragedy of the moment (flight MH 17) — to justify an existing conclusion. But this time getting the facts right matters because the wrong response may very well provoke another Great War.

Wickham concludes that neither the U.S. or Russia has the moral high ground within a historic context. So what’s the point in comparing U.S. and Russian hegemony if it is not for the purpose of excusing anyone? Perhaps this: As Americans better appreciate our role in history, it becomes apparent that escalating international tensions often travel a well-worn path. If keeping history alive to tell the tale of hubris past gives pause to the drums of war, so be it. The alternative is to take two, three, four, even five geopolitical wrongs and to make-believe might makes right.

Haven’t we been down this road before?

 

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